3TFO: Jets @ Bills, Week 17
Disappointing falls a little short when you try to describe the Jets’ and Bills’ respective seasons. It’s Week 17 and they are playing for a Top 10 draft pick in April — not exactly what they were expecting in preseason. But, this is a divisional game and after the Jets’ win in the season opener the Bills will be looking to end the year on a higher note than they began it.
The Buffalo Bills will be evaluating their players in the last game, looking forward to the upcoming offseason when they will no doubt try to find their new starting quarterback. Now they have finally realized that C.J. Spiller is a true No. 1 running back, their offense shouldn’t rely that much on the passing game.
In New York, the end of this season won’t be here soon enough. After the quarterback situation they created, they are finishing the year with Greg McElroy as the starter on the depth chart (although concussion will likely keep him out and see Mark Sanchez return), and a bunch of doubtful weapons on offense. This is not the most glamorous game this weekend, but these are the matchups to focus on.
C.J. Spiller vs. Jets Rushing Defense
Better late than never, but it’s certainly too late for the Bills to realize what they have in C.J. Spiller and start giving him the playing time he deserves. In the past two weeks he has played over 80 percent of the snaps and his yards per rushing attempt was over 6.0. This week he faces the Jets, the team Spiller pounded in the first week of the season with 169 yards, including 133 yards after contact and eight missed tackles.
The Jets’ defense started the season really slow in terms of stopping the running game, and it has persisted as a problem all season long. Muhammad Wilkerson is the only player to have some consistency in his game as he ranks as the third among 3-4 defensive ends in Run Stop Percentage, but he is questionable because of a concussion. Both inside linebackers, David Harris and Bart Scott, combine for 17 missed tackles and rank 20th in Run Stop Percentage with 8.4. They didn’t get much help from the safety position, as LaRon Landry adds another seven missed tackles. These last two players were involved in the Spiller’s longest run this year, 56 yards, in which Scott and Landry missed key tackles.
Jets Offensive Line vs. Bills Defensive Line
After allowing an 11-sack game the offensive line is going to be criticized, although not of all of them were their fault. The weakest link of the line was Austin Howard who surrendered three sacks after allowing only one in the previous four games. He will be dealing with Mario Williams on Sunday. In their first meeting, Howard came off as the winner as Williams got only one hit. However, after that Williams started producing and he now has a 9.4 Pass Rush Productivity with 55 total pressures. This could be a key matchup, especially if Howard doesn’t keep his quarterback clean in the pocket.
The other great matchup will take place in the interior of the lines. Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson are in the Top 15 in Pass Blocking Efficiency. They have allowed only three sacks and 30 total pressures combined. On the Bills’ side, Marcell Dareus is on a real hot streak after seven weeks rating positive and getting pressure regularly. He is 10th in Pass Rushing Productivity among defensive tackles. Kyle Williams ranks higher than Dareus in PRP (fifth with 7.8), but in recent weeks his production has tailed off a little, getting just one hurry in 47 pass rushing snaps over the past two games. With the help of Nick Mangold, the Jets’ line will hope to have the edge in this battle.
Mark Sanchez vs. Bills Safeties
So with the unexpected and, for some people, unwelcome news that a concussion will keep Greg McElroy out of this weekend’s game we are treated to another viewing of Mark Sanchez to close out the Jets’ regular season campaign. Drama has courted the Jets at every turn this season, and in recent days and weeks the quarterback situation has turned into a three-ring circus. Simply put, Sanchez has been absolutely terrible this season but he started the year with a real high point against the Bills (+3.3 passing) collecting close to 10 yards per attempt and reeling off three scoring passes.
Sanchez bossed the deep and intermediate passes in Week 1 (7-of-11, 148 yds, 2 TDs) in a way we have not seen since, but he will be hoping to rekindle this kind of form as he closes out the season, rather than the last display we saw from him against the Titans in Week 15. He made life easy for Michael Griffin in that game, hesitating on deep balls and telegraphing passes for the otherwise lackluster Titan to pick off. This week Sanchez will be going up against free safety Jairus Byrd who made our AFC Pro Bowl Roster and will need no second invitation to get in on deep balls if the QB makes similar mistakes. With George Wilson putting in a strong season covering underneath passes, ranking 10th in Cover Snaps per Reception and allowing one catch every 34.1 snaps spent in coverage, this could turn out to be a long day for Sanchez against the Bills’ secondary.
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